Monday, February 8, 2016

Citizen Complaints

It's really common for citizen's to call the Police Department with complaints. Most often, it's about traffic in their neighborhood. On my department, the beat sergeant would assign the beat officer to spend some time there, monitor what's going on, and write citations, if appropriate.

There was one street in particular on my beat that was constantly the subject of complaints. Citizens complained that people were completely ignoring STOP signs at a particular 4-way stop, and that people were driving 50 to 60 miles per hour in a 25 zone. Since I was one of the day shift officers on that beat, I was regularly assigned to check it out. And what I learned was that, at least in that neighborhood, people generally had vision and/or perception problems.

I'd sit at that 4-way stop in a location that, I can assure you, drivers couldn't see me for an hour at a time and never see a citation-worthy violation. Would people "roll" through the intersection? Sure. But so do I, so do you, so does everybody. Occasionally someone would do the brake-check thing and I'd stop them, but it was pretty rare.

Likewise, people rarely would drive more than about 5 mph over the limit on those streets. I actually had some old guy (I'm sure he was the repeat complainer) come out to my squad car and point out cars that were "flying" by. They'd be doing the speed limit, or maybe a little over. The old guy didn't believe me, so I finally had him sit in my squad and watch the radar readout. He was flabbergasted that his judgement was off so far. I don't think I ever wrote a single speeding ticket in all the hours I sat down in that neighborhood.

In the complainers' defense, STOP sign violations are a judgement call. It's easy to point out people who are rolling through STOP signs, because almost everybody does it. I always felt that if a driver appeared to be making a reasonable attempt to stop and be safe, that was good enough for me. And as lenient as I was, I wrote plenty of tickets.

Speed is also very deceiving, even for experienced cops, especially on winding roads with low speed limits. It's easy to misjudge how fast a car is going - it usually looks like it's moving faster than it really is. I was what some would say is shockingly lenient on speeders, and I still wrote a ton of speeding tickets. I learned that there's no reason to be an asshole. There are plenty of violators out there if you're willing to look for them.


Anonymous said...

What scares me about driving thru neighborhoods are the young children playing outside, without adult supervision, darting in and out from behind cars parked along the road. A friend of mine, many years ago, hit one of these kids, killing him. The investigation showed that the driver did nothing wrong, but the parents hounded him until he took his own life.

On a few occasions, I've been driving very cautiously and slowly down a neighborhood street, and a kid will run out and hit the side of my car, their eyes on their smartphone or something and not seeing that I'm driving thru. That sends my heart rate into the danger zone.

Where I'm working now, one reason I go in so early is so that I don't have to deal with the kids on their way to school. I can drive a "lettle" over the speed limit on the main road, unlike the people who come in at 6 am and later.

Anonymous said...

Asshole moves include trolling the hospital parking lot for the purpose of doling out violations.

Did I deserve a citation for allowing my registration to lapse last month (a big whopping 10 days ago)? Yes, I'll fully admit it.

But come on, a HOSPITAL parking lot? Where people may be at the lowest points in their lives because they or a loved one are dying...and renewing the registration isn't first on their mind? And, posing a great threat to others with their horrible offense?

Mark p.s.2 said...

RE:"no reason to be an asshole." you wrote.

It was your job to stop the asshole, no way can you (the police officer) be an asshole.

For a police officer to be an asshole, is to NOT give a ticket .
"There are plenty of violators out there if you're willing to look for them."
change it to
"There are plenty of violators out there if you're willing to listen for them."

For the amount of cars without working mufflers on their cars, where I live. Too much noise pollution.

Mark p.s.2 said...

The press/public gets upset at police not giving tickets.